Finding the missing link? The impact of co-ethnicity, pan-ethnicity, and cross-ethnicity on Latino vote choice

Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2023, Vol. 76(1) 337347
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129221097156
Finding the missing link? The impact of
co-ethnicity, pan-ethnicity, and
cross-ethnicity on Latino vote choice
Ivelisse Cuevas-Molina, PhD
and Tatishe M Nteta, PhD
Surveys show that Latinos more strongly identify with their ethnic identities (i.e. national origin) than their pan-ethnic
identity as Latino/Hispanic.Given the primacy of ethnic identity among Latinos, what impact does shared ethnic versus
pan-ethnic identity between candidates and voters have on Latino vote choice? Studies suggest that an identity-to-
politics linkexists among Latinos; however, we believe the measurement of co-ethnicityshould be reexamined. Using
a survey experiment embedded in a module of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we randomize the
ethnic, pan-ethnic, and partisan identif‌ication of a f‌ictional male congressional candidate in a contest against a white non-
Hispanic candidate to examine the role of shared ethnic identity on Latino vote choice. We f‌ind that Latinos, regardless of
candidate partisanship, more strongly support co-ethnic candidates relative to candidates with whom they share a pan-
ethnic identity. We also f‌ind that Latinos are signif‌icantly more supportive of a cross-ethnic Latino candidate compared to
a pan-ethnic Latino candidate; and that Latinos are more likely to cross partisan lines to support a co-ethnic candidate.
These results not only suggest that there exists a Latino identity to politicslink, but that the extant scholarship has
underestimated the size and scope of this electoral connection.
latinos, vote choice, ethnic identity, pan-ethnicity, survey experiment
With few exceptions, scholarship on Latino political
behavior has uncovered that the presence of a Latino
candidate on the ballot has a positive inf‌luence on Latino
electoral participation (for a review see Griff‌in 2014;De la
Garza 2004;Fraga et al. 2006;Jones-Correa, Faham and
Cortez 2018). More specif‌ically, scholars have found that
when given the opportunity to vote for a Latino candidate,
regardless of the candidates partisanship, Latinos will
overwhelmingly do so (Stokes-Brown 2006;Manzano
and Sanchez 2010;Barreto 2007a;McConnaughy, White,
Leal, and Casellas 2010). Across these studies, it is as-
sumed that 1) co-ethnicityis def‌ined by Latinos
identif‌ication with their pan-ethnicidentity as Latino or
Hispanic, and 2) Latinos subsequently rely on this pan-
ethnic identity when making political decisions. In short,
these studies conclude that an identity-to-politics link
exists among Latinos, as co-ethnicityhas emerged as a
key factor in accounting for Latino electoral behavior.
However, some scholars contend that while the
identity to politics linkis strong among African
Americans, this link may not be replicated in the same
fashion when examining Latino electoral behavior
(Segura and Rodrigues 2007;Lee 2008). Chief among
these scholars is Taeku Lee (2008), who proposes that
assessing the link between group identity and political
behavior necessitates the recognition of the potentially
unique characteristics of the Latino community. In line
with Lees directive, we note that Latinos, unlike African
Americans, 1) hold weak attachments to the pan-ethnic
identities of Latino and Hispanic and 2) prefer to identify
with their ethnic identities (i.e. national origin) when
compared to a pan-ethnic identity, leading to questions
regarding the applicability of the identity to politics
Department of Political Science, Fordham University, Bronx, NY, USA
Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst,
Amherst, MA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Ivelisse Cuevas-Molina, Department of Political Science, Fordham
University, 441 East Fordham Road, Fabel Hall Rm 671, Bronx,
NY 10458, USA.

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